Altered outside the U.S. Mint, Walking Liberty half dollars have suddenly become a topic of numismatic intensity since I wrote (in the March 11 issue of Numismatic News) a short article titled ??Smileyface? 1945 half dollar intrigues author.?
A spate of e-mail has come my way on this subject with some interesting views from collectors who obviously enjoy their hobby for reasons having nothing to do with investment, bullion prices or their ?grandchildren?s future.?
For those readers who may have missed the ?Smileyface? article, it was about a 1945 half dollar with its rising sun near Miss Liberty?s left foot, which had been tooled to be a toothy smiling sunface. Its owner, Bruce Mosher of New Jersey, believed it may have been engraved about 1965 by a veteran who wanted to recall the surrender of the Axis powers in 1945, 20 years earlier.
Edward Cichorek, a coin collector since 1960, sent along a photograph of a 1935 Walking Liberty half with its rising sun tooled to accommodate a Nazi swastika symbol (or hakenkreuz).
He wrote, ?It?s always pleasant to come across a whimsical piece of numismatic history. Not so with the image I attach for your perusal. This coin was left to me by my late uncle, a tavern keeper who (put aside) anything interesting in coins acquired in business.
?I inherited several cigar boxes of coins and tokens, and then I noticed this Walker. During this dark period in history, in particular 1935 when the Nazi party congress issued the Nuremberg Laws which deprived German Jews of their civic rights.
?Perhaps someone misinterpreted the symbolism and saw a setting sun, but that?s a stretch. More plausible is that this was the work of a sympathizer.? The photo reproduced here speaks for itself.
His reference to the 1935 party congress probably should have called it the Nazi-dominated Reichstag.
Bill Krummel came up with a differing theory about Mosher?s smileyface 1945 coin. He stated, ?I thought I might make my own smileyface Walker. But, looking at the image, I wondered why anyone would angle the face and it occurred to me that someone was being naughty by having the face look up Lady Liberty?s skirt.
?I certainly like your theories better than mine since they are more noble but I bet I am right and the half dollar is something akin to the old large cents whose reverses were vulgarized by altering the word CENT (substituting another vowel for the E.)?
Jeff Kelley in Massachusetts wrote: ?I am especially interested in modern, 20th century onward, counterstamps and I eagerly collect these when I come across them. I also do some counterstamping of my own with prepared punches, as well as quite a bit of freestyle stamping with individual letter punches.
?I also dabble in a bit of irreverent or humorous alterations, such as adding cigarettes to portraits. My activities span two continents as I was active in this while living in Germany ? 20 and 50 euro cent coins were especially nice to work on, the metal was soft and the coins were thick.?
Collector Johan Yeremy of Florida writes that he has seen, over the years, several Walking Liberty halves altered in various ways. He adds, ?Unfortunately I didn?t have sense enough to acquire these when silver per-ounce prices were in the $2 range. Now it?s $20 an ounce!?
He says he has been collecting U.S. coins for 36 years, ?along with some Canada and Mexico pieces.?